Roe V. Wade and Your Digital Footprint
Roe v Wade was overturned on Friday. That means that those to want to have an abortion will have to travel to states that allow it. That also means that in the states that have partial or full bans on abortion, that you need to be well aware of your digital habits going forward.
Period Tracking Apps
A number of people have talked about removing period tracking apps from their phones and devices and to request that the companies delete that data all together. This is in my opinion, the correct move, but this is just a subset of a larger issue. This part of the problem does not address the other areas of the tech where this data can be used against a woman.
Membership Stores, Rewards Programs, Credit and Debit Card, Mobile App Purchases
I strongly believe that this data will be used as evidence against women in the future. All these four methods can be used to uniquely identify you and the purchases that you make. Furthermore, several retailers use outside companies to do marketing analysis on the data that they collect on their customers. From this, retailers can then use this data and data collected from other retailers to market to you.
Some retailers even save credit card information when you make a purchase. How do you know if the retailer is keeping your credit or debit card on file? Simple... if you make a purchase, then do a refund of that purchase and you do not have to swipe your card for the return to be completed, then they are storing your card information.
Each of these methods are used to uniquely identify customers. With this purchase information, they can determine things about you, such as whether you have kids (from buying diapers and toys), are pregnant (from buying maternity clothes), suspect that you might be pregnant (from buying Plan B or pregnancy tests), and the approximate date when you had an "alt-ctrl-delete" procedure done (from buying hygiene products and adult diapers). Just takes a few database queries and there the data is.
Major concern in this area is for women that have PCOS, missed a cycle from being under a lot of stress, or other conditions that make them irregular. They could have a series of normalness, like cycling every 30 days, give or take a day or two, and then have a cycle thats 70 days. This one anomaly from the average would stand out. Normally people buy things based on the need, not for stock piling. Thus if a woman has some irregularity, that has the potential to show up in her buying habits.
- do not buy feminine hygiene or family planning related products from membership-based stores
- do not use your rewards, credit, or debit cards or use mobile payment apps (e.g. CashApp, Paypal) when buying feminine hygiene or family planning related products
- do use cash only when buying feminine hygiene or family planning related products
- when asked for your zip code, phone number, or any other identifying information, do not provide it when buying feminine hygiene or family planning related products
Online Search and Browsing History
What you look at online and where you browse online has been used in previous cases. One example of this, was a classmate of mine from college had his browser search history used as evidence in court when he left his child in a car during the summer while he was at work. Some of the search terms that were said to have been found were about insurance payouts and how to do the crime without getting caught. This was used to charge and convict him of said crime.
In that same regard, people doing searches about family planning and where they can go to "alt-ctrl-delete" would be used like the information collected from one's purchases.
When it comes to this, my suggestions to reduce your digital footprint in this area are:
- that you use incognito browsing when doing the searches related to family planning
- use a search engine like DuckDuckGo that does not save your search criteria
- do not bookmark information related to family planning in your browser. Read what you need to read and if you need to make notes about what you have read, put them on paper
- make sure that when you are browsing that the websites you are looking at have encrypted connections, which are denoted by using "https" (encrypted) in the URL and not "http" (unencrypted)
Voice Assistants and Your Phone
People have asked directly asked whether the Alexa and Google Home devices were sending the information to the government. The devices in turn would either not respond or say that they did not understand the question. The thing is, we know that they are always listening.
We know this because in order for it to respond, it has to be always listening. Just like when other people are in the same room as you talking to others, you may not be paying attention to them. Then when they call your name, you direct your attention to them so that you can provide a response.
You've probably also heard about people talking about a given item, such as toothpaste, and not searched or posted about it. Then all of a sudden, they start seeing ads for toothpaste on their phone and TV. Think that's just a fluke? Think again.
What should you do as alternatives?
- if you need or are going to talk with someone regarding this subject, make sure that there are no phones and voice assistants in the room.
- do not text or make phone calls discussing the manner. The apps you have on your phone are always listening, even when you make calls and some apps have permissions to read your messages, especially the ones your send on social media
There are people out there who are skilled in breaking into digital systems that also believe that women do not have the right to make their own choices. My thought is that those individuals will be looking and attempting to break into systems that have this information and then use it to report women to get them prosecuted.
It seems like a stretch, but I am going to claim it now that there will be some prosecution of women based on the digital footprint that they leave behind. This evidence alone may not be enough to convict a woman of said crime, but if they can find it, they will use it as supporting evidence. My advice, is to be mindful of your digital habits now, because the way things are going, will have consequences for a lot of us.